Italian notebook maker Moleskine plans Milan float
LONDON (Reuters) - Italian notebook maker Moleskine plans to list in Milan this year and has hired investment banks to run the sale of stock in the company, whose thread-bound jotters are based on originals favored by the likes of Vincent Van Gogh and Ernest Hemingway.
Goldman Sachs, Mediobanca and UBS will run the offering for majority-owner Syntegra Capital, aiming to add to the list of upmarket brands which have lured investors in defiance of generally tough stock market conditions.
Private equity firm Syntegra plans to file listing documents for Moleskine, in which it owns a 68 percent stake, in early September and is aiming for a market debut in the fourth quarter, said Marco Ariello, a partner at Syntegra.
"An IPO is the right thing for the future of the company," Ariello told Reuters on Monday.
While a string of flotations worldwide have been blown off course by choppy markets, with German chemical company Evonik the latest casualty, high-end brands have fared better with investor demand boosted by the industry performing well despite global economic uncertainty.
In April, Italian cashmere house Brunello Cucinelli and high-end luggage maker Tumi Holdings both saw their stock surge on their debuts in Milan and New York respectively, while shares in luxury brand Michael Kors Holdings are more than a third above their December 15 trading debut price.
"We need the market conditions to be better, but Moleskine is a premium brand in (terms of) pricing power and positioning. Valuations and market appetite for premium brands is stronger than for average brands even at difficult times," said Ariello.
But getting the valuation right will still be a balance. Luxury London jeweler Graff Diamonds was forced to pull its $1 billion Hong Kong offering last month as analysts and fund managers questioned its valuation.
Moleskine, a company which was created in 1997 to revive the style of notebook favored by artists and writers in the 19th and 20th Centuries, has seen growth of around 25 percent a year since Syntegra bought a 75 percent stake for around 60 million euros ($75.8 million) in 2006.
The company takes its name from a nickname given to the notebooks by writer Bruce Chatwin, another customer of the originals made by Paris bookbinders. They are actually bound in oil-cloth covered cardboard.
In early 2011, when venture capital firm Index Ventures bought a 15 percent stake, the company said its turnover had grown from 80 million euros in 2006 to more than 200 million in 2010.
The offering is likely to be made up mostly of existing shares, Ariello said. He declined to comment on potential valuations for the company, or how big a stake would be sold, but said Syntegra intended to retain some of its holding following the listing to benefit from its expected future value.
The rest of the company's shares are owned by founder Francesco Franceschi and company management.
Moleskine, whose products also include journals, diaries and city guides, has grown from 15 employees in 2006 to well over 100 and has offices in Milan, New York and Hong Kong.
(Editing by David Holmes)
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